Marguerite Meraud, a nursing major at North Campus, is one of many students searching for financial assistance.
“I used to get Medicaid, but now that my son’s 18 they cut it off,” Meraud said.
She turned to Single Stop USA, a service at the College that offers eligible students free screenings for resources such as food stamps, financial counseling, health insurance, legal advice, psychological counseling referrals, and tax preparations, for help.
“Someone from Single Stop came to one of my classes and explained the program to us,” Meraud said.
“I’ve been with them for the past three months in order to file my request to reclaim my Medicaid.”
Single Stop USA was launched at Miami Dade College in October 2010. Its a non-profit organization whose main goal is to ensure that households are kept financially stable.
Since January, they have served more than 2,000 students at MDC—a $3.62 million value of benefits and services, according to Barbara Pryor, the Director for Single Stop USA’s offices at MDC.
Offices are currently located at North and Wolfson campuses, as well as at the Carrie P. Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center.
“There is government money for government benefits that gets left on the table every year,” said Janet Zoglin a Miami-based Single Stop consultant. “People don’t claim that money because if you go to a federal aid office you have to wait three hours and the people don’t treat you right sometimes. People get frustrated.”
In response to this, the Benefits Enrollment Network (BEN) was created. BEN is a computer program that does a rapid screening for people to determine the benefits that they are eligible for. After the screening process, Single Stop helps the individuals apply for the benefits they qualify for.
Pryor says she has noted the increasing number of students and their families using the resources available at Single Stop, despite second thoughts about the success of the program.
“We were a little nervous, usually when students think of government benefits or food stamps their’s a negative connotation associated with that,” Pryor said. “But just assisting students, we’ve been able to make a name for ourselves and established our existence on campus.”
Jarrid L. Smith, an AmeriCorps VISTA Program Leader for Single Stop, says he’s heard just about everything.
“If you’re looking for heartening examples, I’ve got them,” Smith said. “A student in his early thirty’s came in about a month ago, I walked up to him and asked how I could help. He said ‘yes, I’m hungry.’ This student was from Texas and he had spent all of his money on his courses. He had no family here. We were able to connect him to soup kitchens and other forms of food resources.”